Puck of Pook's Hill
Puck of Pook's Hill is a fantasy book by Rudyard Kipling, published in 1906, containing a series of short stories set in different periods of English history. It can count both as historical fantasy - since some of the stories told of the past have clear magical elements, and as contemporary fantasy - since it depicts a magical being active and practicing his magic in the England of the early 1900s when the book was written.
The stories are all narrated to two children living near Burwash, in the area of Kipling's own house Bateman's, by people magically plucked out of history by the elf Puck, or told by Puck himself. (Puck, who refers to himself as "the oldest Old Thing in England", is better known as a character in William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream.) The genres of particular stories range from authentic historical novella (A Centurion of the Thirtieth, On the Great Wall) to children's fantasy (Dymchurch Flit). Each story is bracketed by a poem which relates in some manner to the theme or subject of the story.
Donald Mackenzie, who wrote the introduction for the Oxford World's Classics edition of Puck of Pook's Hill in 1987, has described this book as an example of archaeological imagination that, in fragments, delivers a look at the history of England, climaxing with the signing of Magna Carta.
Puck calmly concludes the series of stories: "Weland gave the Sword, The Sword gave the Treasure, and the Treasure gave the Law. It's as natural as an oak growing."
- 'Weland's Sword' is a story of Burwash in the 11th century just before the Norman Conquest, told by Puck himself.
- 'Young Men at the Manor' continues the previous story just after the Norman Conquest. It's told by Sir Richard Dalyngridge, a Norman knight who took part in the Conquest and was awarded a Saxon manor.
- 'The Knights of the Joyous Venture' tells of a daring voyage to Africa made by Danes after capturing Sir Richard and his Saxon friend Hugh at sea.
- 'Old Men at Pevensey' continues the previous stories with a tale of intrigue set in Pevensey at the beginning of the reign of Henry I, 1100 AD.
- 'A Centurion of the Thirtieth' introduces a new story-teller, a Roman soldier named Parnesius, born and stationed in Britain in the 4th century. He tells how his military career started well because the general Magnus Maximus knew his father.
- 'On the Great Wall' tells of the defence of Hadrian's Wall against the native Picts and Scandinavian raiders.
- 'The Winged Hats' returns to Hadrian's Wall and the fate of Magnus Maximus.
- 'Hal o' the Draft' is a tale of deception involving the explorer Sebastian Cabot and the privateer Andrew Barton, probably set near the end of the 15th century and told by Sir Harry 'Hal' Dawe.
- 'Dymchurch Flit' is a fairy tale told by Puck (in disguise) and set around the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries (about 1540 AD).
- 'The Treasure and the Law' is a story told by a Jewish moneylender named Kadmiel, of money and intrigue leading up to the signing of Magna Carta in 1215. Here we learn the eventual fate of most of the African gold brought back to Pevensey by Sir Richard Dalyngridge.